I just yelled at my son. Then I put my hand over his mouth to stop him from crying. Then I told him I was going to count to three and if he wasn’t up the stairs by then I was going to pick him up and carry him into the house. Then I counted to one and he dashed up the steps, wailing.
I knew my actions were bullshit and didn’t do any good. I was also a little worried that the neighbors would see me and realize what a bad parent I am. I was also ashamed. Because I know myself to be a kind person and I love my kids and I hate to raise my voice. But I do it all the time.
I do it all the time.
Let’s not get nuts. I’m not a big yeller. But my kids drive me crazy. Well, the little ones do. My daughter’s kind of in the between stage, for now. But she used to make me crazy when she was younger, for sure. They all do. There are no good kids. They don’t give a shit. They only see their own agenda. Growing up is a process of learning how to be in human company, because we seem to be born terrible creatures—capricious, moody, and stubborn.
It’s not that they’re not beautiful, too, or that I don’t love them because, God, I do. Almost every day they drive me crazy and then every day ends with me reading to them in bed and kissing them goodnight. And I’m so proud of them and the fact of their existence is a constant wonder and a sort of torment, because I’m unable to make them perfectly happy and safe and never afraid, which is my fondest wish.
So it’s like that.
I’m kind of an old Dad. I don’t really care, though. I feel like I stopped ageing at twenty-four, and everything that’s happened since seems like it happened last week or last year. But I’m almost fifty. So I guess that’s pretty old. I sometimes regret not having kids earlier, but not for long, not if I think about it. I wouldn’t change anything about my life, and regret is dopey so I don’t feed it.
Still, I think people would be better off if they started having kids earlier, instead of wasting these decades like we do now, just farting around or fucking with our careers or whatever. Like we’re so important, like people need us that badly.
There are plenty of people who don’t want to have kids, of course, and some of them have excellent reasons. Yet so often it sounds like people just want to keep going to music festivals and eating in restaurants.
This is kind of bullshit but kind of true.
There are lots of ways to get out of yourself, to live with concern for others. But having children is a good place to start. Yes, you’re driven by a genetic imperative. Yes, it’s “just” instinct. But that’s everything you do. How else would humans behave? You’re not a ghost in there, pulling the levers: you’re a body and a mind, subject to causes and conditions like everything else. The fact that we have an instinct to love our children doesn’t make it less significant. It makes it more significant. It shows how we’re part of nature, part of Everything. We’re not these insignificant little apes: we’re in the Big Show. We’re light, gravity, God.
I don’t want to make it sound like people who have children are somehow superior to people who don’t because that’s nonsense. Not only because it leaves out all the people who aren’t able to but because having children is no great achievement on its own. People have been doing it for a million years now and the results have been, shall we say, mixed.
And people can do what they want. You can do what you want. Go ahead—do what you want…I want you to!
But I do think people sell themselves short. They think they can’t hack it, or they’d be shitty parents. Or they honestly think that the best thing they can do with their lives is to fix it so they can stay up late enough to watch all their shows.
When all along the light that burns in distant stars burns within them, too, and causes their hearts to beat.
So you don’t want to piss that away. You don’t want to live only for yourself, your own petty needs. If you look closely you can see the energy within you, the desire to open your heart, to be love and light. And it doesn’t mean you won’t yell at your kids. You’ll probably yell at your kids. But then you’ll turn that light on yourself. You’ll love yourself, and forgive yourself, and keep going.
Having kids can be a total drag sometimes. There’s no doubt about it. But so what?
The idea that one’s life should be free of trouble and anxiety is naive and childish.
Why are we alive? What will you do with your life?
Things are different now. There are things I can’t really do any more. I don’t mean drinking or going out to clubs & shit because that’s a blessed relief. I mean there’s really no way for me to carve out 3 hours at a sitting for a Russian art movie. And I used to love that kind of thing. It takes me a month to read a book now because I spend half an hour every night reading the same 3 books to my kids over and over. I can’t go off on a long meditation retreat or even take a few days in a cabin with my wife. That kind of thing.
But I never brood on that bullshit. It’s not that I don’t want things, it’s just that I don’t care as much as I used to about getting the things I want. And when I look closely at the things I supposedly want, I realize I don’t really want them that much. Not as much as I want to be a good husband and father, anyway.
Recently I spoke with young woman who is planning on having a kid. Just one. Though she also said she knows she might change her mind after having one, and want another.
She and her husband now have a young dog. The husband dotes on the dog. The woman spoke highly of the dog, as well. They put the dog in doggie daycare two or three days a week. The dog went to a party at the daycare on Halloween night, because the woman was afraid her dog might go crazy from all the knocking at the door and the strange kids in costumes. And I think she had a good point.
Her dog wore a dinosaur costume to the party. The other dogs had costumes, too, but they only kept them on long enough for the owners to take pictures, and then they were free to play and run around, costume free.
The husband doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about the child project. He says kids annoy him. The woman told him that it would be different with his own kids. She said think of your nephew. You love him! And what about the dog? You love the dog!
I agreed with her that it’s different with your own kids. I told her that I adore my own kids, but I don’t like other people’s kids. And this is more or less true. I don’t actively dislike other people’s kids, but I do regard them as people, not as pixies or elves, and as people children can often be dickheads or bores.
Some of them are okay, though. You take them as they come.
I told her I thought it was fine not to have kids. And of course that’s true. It doesn’t hurt anybody. And there are strong arguments against having kids. There are enough people to go around, assuredly. And there’s no escaping it: to have a child is to condemn that child to death.
Does that sound terrible?
It is terrible.
But as much as I go on about suffering and death and all that kind of thing, I love life, and I love my kids. I wouldn’t change a thing..
And as much as I know my children will suffer sadness and heartbreak and illness and death, given the chance I would bring them into this realm again and again. Every time I would do it, and not for me, not simply because they are so beautiful and miraculous. But for them, so they can see the stars for a while, and feel what it is to be these bodies of light, this energy born in the heart of the sun.